Earthquake jolts WSU Nepali students into a plan

By Linda Weiford, WSU News


PULLMAN, Wash. – Already harried by semester-end studies, Nepali students at Washington State University have devised a plan to help their earthquake-stricken country.

Within four days of the massive quake, the 23 members of WSU’s Nepali Students’ Association – most of them graduate students – opened a bank account and launched a fundraising campaign on the international crowdfunding website Indigogo.

The aunt of one student was killed but immediate family of all group members survived, said association president Ashish Bhattarai, a Ph.D. student in chemistry. Several of the students’ parents’ homes were destroyed, he said.

“Even before the shock of the news wore off, we got together, drank tea and talked,” he said. “We decided that since we can’t go to Nepal to help, we’d help right here.”

Bhattarai was raised in a town about 200 miles east of the heavily damaged capital city of Kathmandu. When the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck, his parents and several other relatives were visiting that city, now the site of many collapsed buildings and ancient temples.

“Amazingly, incredibly, they’re all OK. They were staying in the outskirts of the city where the damage wasn’t as bad,” he said.

Earthquakes, graduating and baby

Umesh Bastola, right, and Pratikshya Sapkota Bastola. (Photos by Linda Weiford, WSU News)

Married students Umesh Bastola and Pratikshya Sapkota Bastola, also members of the association, face an unusual challenge. Though their families survived the earthquake and the couple gets updates by cell phone or Skype each day, the devastation portrayed in news reports leaves them reeling: Dead bodies under rubble. Buckled streets. Children huddled under makeshift tents.

“It’s heartbreaking to see so much suffering and loss,” said Pratikshya Bastola, whose family lives in the capital city. “It’s hard for me to concentrate on much else,” she said.

The same goes for her husband whose family members, fearing fallout from the aftershocks, have been living in a tent outside their home.

“Because their house is 5 years old and built with concrete, it didn’t collapse,” he said. “But many things fell down inside and they didn’t feel safe staying with the after tremors.”

As if worrying over the safety of their relatives and the welfare of their home country isn’t enough, the two are also trying to complete their doctoral degrees in economic sciences within weeks. Soon, both will be defending their dissertations – a rite of passage that’s freighted with anxiety on its own.

All the while, they’re also caring for their baby son.

And, on June 1, they’re scheduled to move to Dallas where Umesh Bastola will start a job with his newly minted doctorate degree.

“Yes, it’s a lot at once,” said his wife.

How to help

Then again, the Nepalese people are known for their resilience. That’s why she and her husband, along with Bhattarai and the other members of the Nepali Students’ Association, so quickly came together to help rebuild Nepal.

Money donated will be distributed to the international aid organizations Mercy Corps., based in Portland, Ore., Save the Children and International Medical Corps.

To donate online go to

To donate by check, write it to the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund, established at the Washington State Employees Credit Union, and send it in care of Ashish Bhattarai, 1225 NE Stadium Way, Suite B, Pullman, Wash., 99163.


Ashish Bhattarai, WSU Nepali Students’ Association, 218-213-8317,
Umesh Bastola and Pratikshya Sapkota Bastola, 971-801-2035 or 509-339-5246
Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209,